City Lights

Early Morning... Homeward Bound

by Bryant Arnett
(click any picture for a larger view)

Charlie and the Millionaire drive home after a wild night of dining and dancing.
The only problem is they each think the other person is driving.

Their journey begins, appropriately, downtown.  The above location is the corner of 7th and Grand looking west on 7th. This was tough location to find thanks to the extensive face-lift on the building. That single corner window really threw me off, and much of the building is obscured by trees. It was only after locating the building in the distance, and then checking all four possible angles from there, that I realized this was the spot. Now that it's lined up, it seems obvious.

For the next shot, the crew simply turned around and walked a few steps and shot the intersection at the next block over. This is the corner of 7th and Olive, gateway to the Jewelry District. We are looking East now. The building in the foreground is completely condemned. I feel like an idiot because I found this location (just by driving by one day) months before finding the previous location. All I needed to do was turn around! The same is also true for the next one...

Next, Charlie and his movie crew walked another block north and shot the next intersection at 6th and Olive. This angle is looking east down 6th toward Pershing Square. The building on the left side has long ago been replaced. In fact, ALL the buildings have been replaced, making this the toughest of the locations to identify. First I searched for any columned buildings I could find. Downtown is full of them, but none of them were it. I had a suspicion that the park might be Pershing Square, so I searched the four corners of the park but still no columns. The copy of the film I was using for a reference was horrible quality, so I couldn't read the sign in the distance (I didn't even know there WAS a sign in the distance). Fortunately, I found a better VHS copy and was able to read the sign. It said "Paramount." To my surprise,  there is no listing for any "Paramount" hotel or theater or anything else in Los Angeles. Then, after searching through the LA Public Library Photo Database, I discovered there was a Paramount Theater at the corner of Hill and 6th, and it was torn down in 1961. I was able to search the database for old photos of the Pershing Square area and the pieces fell into place.  I was able to identify the columned building as the original Pacific Mutual Life Insurance building, replaced sometime around the 1940's. These first three locations are all one block from each other. For the next shot, we move uptown a bit, several miles west on Wilshire....

This is 3300 Wilshire Blvd, the corner of Berendo and Wilshire, facing west. This was the first location I found. About 3 months ago, I watched City Lights for the first time in years. I immediately recognized this church from my daily commute. I drive by this spot every morning. The Gaylord apartment building in the distance is still standing, and so is the large sign on top, though it is almost completely obscured by the new modern neighbor. The now picture is a bit dim because it was taken very early in the morning. This was the only time I could expect to stand in the middle of the street without getting run over.

Rodeo and Wilshire Now

They arrive home, barely, in the heart of Beverly Hills. The turn is made from westbound on Wilshire to northbound on Rodeo Drive. The hotel is the Regent Beverly-Wilshire. I figured the building had to be one of the big hotels in town, so I just started checking them all. Of course this was the last one I checked. Another early morning photo. Unlike the gentlemen in the Rolls, I was work bound rather than homeward bound.

This page by Bryant Arnett ©2001

Part of the Chaplin Film Locations Then & Now website.